TV increasingly for the old, Internet for the young

A new analysis suggests the population of TV watchers is aging faster than the US and Internet users tend to be younger:

The median age of a broadcast or cable television viewer during the 2013-2014 TV season was 44.4 years old, a 6 percent increase in age from four years earlier. Audiences for the major broadcast network shows are much older and aging even faster, with a median age of 53.9 years old, up 7 percent from four years ago.

These television viewers are aging faster than the U.S. population, Nathanson points out. The median age in the U.S. was 37.2, according to the U.S. Census, a figure that increased 1.9 percent over a decade. So to put that in context of television viewing, he said TV audiences aged 5 percent faster than the average American…

For younger audiences, control over when and where they watch has driven the trend away from traditional television. Live television viewing was down 13 percent for all ages except for viewers 55 years and older, who are steadily watching their shows at their scheduled broadcast time.

But, what about watching TV on the Internet? Here is more about watching different kinds of videos online:

Teens said they identify more with YouTube celebrities such as comedians Ryan Higa and Smosh, a “Saturday Night Live”-style singing, rapping duo, more than Hollywood A-listers Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogen, according to a July poll commissioned by Variety Magazine.

And like YouTube, Vine, which is owned by Twitter and has 40 million registered users, is producing celebrities who are getting increasingly picked up by mainstream media.

Perhaps not too surprising. Yet, it may lead to some interesting changes with both mediums. TV has traditionally tried to chase younger audiences, people that are impressionable and have spend a lot of disposable income. How much should TV chase younger viewers, particularly as the Baby Boomers, people used to TV and spending, age? On the other side, young Internet users do grow up at some point. Can sites like Facebook and YouTube continue to appeal to aging users as well as younger users who want new things?

At the least, this suggests moving images are not going away anytime soon, even if the delivery mode changes.

Preparing for a lot more baby boomer friendly housing

An aging population means that more Americans are going to be looking for housing that meets their needs – and there may not be enough of it:

While affordability is a problem on the horizon for some older residents, accessibility challenges are virtually guaranteed for all. While increased life expectancy and a factor that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development cites as “compression of morbidity” means that older generations (even beyond the Baby Boomers) are living actively later into life, disability eventually affects almost everyone. One of the great equalizers in life, disability arrives without any deference to income or race. (Privilege in these realms often makes it easier for people to adjust to disabilities, of course.)…

The housing stock built for Baby Boomers largely wasn’t designed with accessibility in mind. There are five universal-design housing features that tend to address a variety of disabilities that residents face as they age: no-step entries; single-floor living; switches and outlets set at lower heights; extra-wide hallways and doors; and lever-style doors and faucets. Nearly 90 percent of existing homes have one of these features, according to the report—but just 57 percent have two…

Homes built more recently are more likely to accommodate all five universal-design features. Among these universal-design features, the one that’s most common in homes today is the single floor. More than 86 percent of homes in non-metro areas features single-floor living. These figures for cities and suburbs are high as well: 74 and 72 percent, respectively.

Yet these detached, single-floor, single-family homes—and the automobile-centric society that comes with them—are only going to fall further out of step with the needs of residents over time. And sooner rather than later. Homes can be retrofitted with lever-style handles and no-step entries (albeit at great expense). It’s much harder to turn exurban and rural communities where older Americans live into places that nurture seniors rather than isolate them.

A range of issues to consider from design to the layout of communities. Given the retirement savings of Americans, how many of them could afford to move to a new or retrofitted home as they age? One benefit of aging is that these Americans could theoretically have already paid off their homes or gotten close to that point, capping how much they spend on housing. How many want to search out a new mortgage or pay for potentially costly renovations? Some possible solutions:

1. Building more housing for all ages that meet these guidelines. Accessibility can be an issue even for younger residents.

2. Finding funds at a federal or lower level of government to help people retrofit their current residents to better meet these standards. This has the benefit of helping them do what many want as well as letting them stay engaged in and involved with the communities they care about.

3. Aging Americans living in suburbs is a tougher issue as it often requires dependence on a car and it is more difficult to distribute social services. This might require finding ways to make single-family homes multi-unit or building pockets with suburbs that cater to older residents (and not necessarily creating whole new communities like Del Webb).

How women are “taking the lead” in retirement decisions

Within a story about the large number of people who wish to move when they retire, a sociologist suggests that a shift in retirement has taken place: while men have often decided where a couple might go, women are now playing a more active role in deciding where couples should go:

“Retirement used to be a male transition that wives really just accommodated,” says Phyllis Moen, a professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota. “Now women are taking the lead and planning what is going to come next. There’s a ‘his’ and a ‘her’ view of things.”

The “her” view catches many men by surprise. Cheryl Rampage, a clinical psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, recalls a man who wanted to retire to Palm Springs, Calif., and play golf. The wife wanted to stay in Chicago. “He took it as a huge slap in the face,” Ms. Rampage recalls. “He had developed this dream in his head without being in a conversation.” After some therapy, the couple agreed to move to a city they both liked.

I would be interested to hear a longer explanation about why this shift has taken place: feminism? More participation of women in the labor force? Changes in what retired people or people near retirement expect to experience in retirement?

What to do with those extra years of life

Virginia Postrel addresses how American society can move beyond seeing age 65 or retirement as the end of a career or life (“Floridization”):

It’s to change the pictures in our heads, to give up the images that “Floridization” evokes, as either a warning or an implicit ideal. People do not automatically become crotchety, backward-looking, and idle when they reach their 60s.

But changing that picture means exchanging today’s architectural metaphor, “building a career,” for another one: adaptive reuse. This is the human-capital equivalent of turning industrial lofts into apartments, factories into medical schools, power plants into art museums, or saw mills into shopping centers. Your original career may be economically obsolete, or you may just want a change, but your knowledge and experience still have their charms. Instead of equating success with a steady progression of better-paying jobs, each related to the previous one, this model emphasizes taking on new challenges and making new contributions, even if that means going back to school, taking a pay cut, or starting as a trainee when you’re middle-aged.

One version of this idea is the “encore career” advocated by Marc Freedman, who has made one of the most prominent attempts to think what how longer, healthier lives should mean for Americans’ careers.

This is an important topic to be discussing with longer life spans, limited funds for government retirement programs, and economic times that may require citizens to work to an older age. Those with more years have plenty to contribute to society and to simply write them off as past their time is foolish: it is not good for these individuals, their families and communities, and society.

Implicit in this discussion is an American emphasis on youth. Postrel cites one journalist who seems to suggest that youth equals progress and that being older automatically leads to loneliness. This may only appear to be the case because our society doesn’t leave much productive space for those who have retired. As I recently discussed, being older can lead to increased happiness and wisdom, two traits out society could use.

h/t Instapundit